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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Driver tells Cumbrian judge: I don’t have to obey your laws

A man appearing before Cumbria’s top judge told him he did not accept that he had any right to dispense justice.

Judge Paul Batty  photo
Judge Paul Batty

Stephen Welch claims to be a “freeman of the land” – an obscure group which believes its members don’t have to abide by any laws imposed by the government.

At Carlisle Crown Court he told Judge Paul Batty QC that the laws he was said to have broken did not apply to him.

In October Welch, 51, of Maryport Road, Dearham, Maryport, was landed with a £1,580 bill in fines and court costs after Workington magistrates found him guilty of two motoring offences.

He was appealing against those convictions at the crown court, claiming he could not be guilty because as a freeman he did not have to obey the laws.

The case arose from an incident on June 14 when a police officer stopped Welch in Ennerdale Road, Maryport, for not wearing his seat belt while driving his Ford Focus.

The officer, PC Mark Ormerod, asked Welch to get out of his car, but he refused, saying he did not have to because he only recognised common law, not statute law. So PC Ormerod dragged him out, which Welch claimed was “unlawful and unnecessary”. The officer asked him to take a breath test, which he refused on the same grounds.

He was charged with failing to wear a seat belt and failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis. He was convicted by magistrates and fined a total of £800, with £720 costs and a £60 statutory surcharge. He was also banned from driving for 20 months.

At Friday’s appeal hearing, Welch insisted on being tried by a jury “as allowed by the Magna Carta”.

That suggestion was rejected by Judge Batty, who was deciding the case with two independent magistrates, on the grounds that the law did not allow such a thing in the case of an appeal against a decision of a magistrates’ court.

Then Welch tried to have the case adjourned, to allow him time to submit a transcript of a tape-recording he had made of his conversation with the police officer who booked him.

But Judge Batty refused that too, because Welch had not given advance notice, and both he and PC Ormerod were at court and available to give evidence. However, Welch refused to do so because, he said, he did not recognise the legality of the court.

The court dismissed Welch’s appeal, saying there was “no merit” in it.

Welch was ordered to pay the bill imposed by the magistrates – as well as another £620 in costs.

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